Stories that shoes tell us... 

Between December and February, I washed my walking shoes thrice. It’s unusual for me to wash my shoes this often because they don’t get that dirty. But something magical happened each time I washed my shoes. Each time I washed my shoe, I learned something new about myself – I learned, I grew, I forgave. Let me walk you through the three washing cycles.


Wash 1: Kenya

Our trip to Kenya was planned a year in advance because my husband had FOMO when I took a solo trip to South Africa for my 40th birthday. So, he wanted us to go back to Africa together. We both have left a piece of our heart in Africa ever since we visited it first.


Each day in 2023, we talked about Kenya because our trip was slated for December – at the end of the year so we could take a nice break, not have to worry about work, and just enjoy our time in nature, animals, and with each other. But you know, man proposes and God disposes, well that’s what happened with us.


A day before our vacation was to start, we learned that my father-in-law was very sick and rushed to ICU. The big decision for us was whether we go on our vacation or if we go to India. Encouraged by family in India, we decided to go forward with our vacation. But you know the vacation wasn’t as restful as we had imagined it to be. We had the constant worry of my father-in-law’s health in our head and we tried very hard to be present in the moment – realizing we will never have the same experiences again. We finished our 10-day vacation in Kenya successfully – capturing beautiful moments, learning about the cycle of life, taking over 2500 photos, spending time in the vastness of nature, and with our shoes covered in red dust.


We went to Dubai from Kenya and this is when the first wash took place. So, not only did we get rid of the red dust through the wash, I also got rid of worrying constantly. I truly learned how important it is to stay in the present, enjoy the moment, and let go. This was my first step to recovering from a long drawn out job burn out.

Wash 2: Dubai

Dubai is where my husband grew up. He lived there for nearly 20 years before moving to the US in late 1999. Even though he’s Indian, he considers Dubai as home. So, our visit to Dubai for him has nostalgia, feelings of being home, friends, food, familiarity, and much more meaningful than it is for an average visitor to Dubai.


We went to Dubai because we both have a lot of friends and we hadn’t seen some of them in over 8 years but also because we are exploring a move to Dubai in the near future. My husband wants to be closer to his parents so he could get to India at a moment’s notice, if needed. We had a lovely time in Dubai. We went walking in the mangroves, hiking in the mountains, got spoiled silly by our friends, and got to experience life up close in Dubai. This last bit was very important, especially if we wanted to move there.


All this walking/hiking got my shoes dirty and this is when wash 2 took place. So, what did I learn about myself? I learned that I am not very good with change. I can come across an extrovert but I am very introverted and need my own time to regain energy and ability to engage with people. I learned that I miss my friends more than I knew and as I’m growing older, I want them more than before.


Wash 3: India

About a month after coming back from our vacation, my father-in-law passed away. Which meant we had to fly to India immediately. And so did my shoes.


The journey to India was stressful, sad, and tiring. It was a 30-hour trip door-to-door and my husband had been back from India less than 72 hours, after spending two weeks with his ailing dad, before he passed away. Three trips back to the same part of the world in about a month is very tiring on the body and we felt each flight in our bones.


Once we landed in his hometown, we went non-stop for 12 days. First the funeral, then the official mourning period, then making sure his mom was settled, and lastly flying back home to Canada had my shoes dirty and brown. They needed a wash. And this is when the third and the last wash happened.


This wash taught me that life is fleeting. You can lose your loved ones in the blink of an eye even though you think they are on the mend. It was also a masterclass in patience and forgiveness. I forgave people that had caused me hurt and I became one with the family in time of need. I learned that I could rise above the pettiness and place others at the center.


So, three wash cycles later, I have engaged in deep inner work. It’s funny how life forces you to do some introspection in unexpected ways. But the real work is staying in that zone. Continuing to dig deeper, learning from these experiences, and moving along the spectrum of inner work is very important. We can learn something from each situation by being thoughtful and reflecting on our/others’ actions.


What do your wash cycles look like these days? What are they teaching you?